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The NHL Trade Deadline has come and gone with six teams coming out on the other side with no first-round pick this year, five of which were traded and Arizona’s being forfeited. Trading a first-round pick to bolster your current roster is a practice that’s become commonplace for teams looking to contend. For teams like Toronto and Tampa Bay, a history of excellent drafting and finding gems outside the first round gives them confidence that they can restock the prospect pool with limited draft capital.
Finding that value outside of the first round is always key to contending teams staying in contention. Whether it be Pittsburgh finding Jake Guentzel in the third round in 2013 or Tampa Bay unearthing Brayden Point in the third round a year later, good players fall every year for a variety of reasons. It could be teams shying away from a diminutive player, an injury, or even just playing in an under-scouted league. This year, there is also the ‘OHL factor’ which will cause players to slip because they haven’t been playing in North America or at all. Even in a draft that is a bit underwhelming in terms of the top-end talent that we’ve been spoiled with in years past, there is value to be had in the 2021 NHL Draft.
Let’s take a look at some of the players who could be value picks in the second round. Each of these players is in the 20-35 range on my draft rankings at the moment but they are all candidates to fall to the second round for one of the reasons mentioned. It’s no guarantee that they will be there on day two but the likelihood that at least a few of them fall is fairly high. As with all draft analysis, no board is perfect and maybe none of these players work out but the potential of all of these players warrants the praise many of them have received in the public sphere and could wind up being key components that a contender adds to future rosters to help supplement their stars.
Scott Morrow | RD | Shattuck (USHS-Prep) | 6-2 | 198lbs
The Shattuck St. Mary’s defender has been a hot topic in this year’s draft conversation. The concern over the fact that he plays high school hockey is legitimate and could be the likely reason that Morrow falls to day two of the draft. What makes Morrow such an intriguing talent in this draft class is the fact that his raw tools are as good or better than many of the top-end blueliners. He boasts a projectable frame and his mobility is brilliant every time he steps on the ice.
His defensive game is quite strong until it isn’t. Clearly a level above almost every player on the ice, at times playing 30-plus minutes a night, there are times when Morrow can get a bit lackadaisical in the defensive zone. His footwork and overall skating package often allow him to get back into the play but that will be a point of emphasis next season at the University of North Dakota. What makes Morrow as special as he is though is that he is able to combine his exceptional mobility and offensive instincts to drive play. His ability to create separation, stay aware of where the play is developing, and hit his spots on passes – both in transition and the offensive zone – showcase what he could be at the next level. In a draft with uncertainty, Morrow may be the most uncertain high-end talent which could mean he’s there on day two.
Check out Morrow’s Game Tape with Tony video where we discuss his game and go over some of his film together!
Ayrton Martino | W | Omaha (USHL) | 5-10 | 168lbs
This is the exact kind of player who falls in the draft. He is a bit on the smaller side, played in the OJHL prior to this season, he is an all-out offensive player at first glance, and he plays in the USHL which is notoriously underrated outside of the Chicago Steel and NTDP. The Ontario-native brings together an impressive skill level with impressive speed and pace. His defensive game is going to be a work in progress at even strength but he is an effective penalty killer who epitomizes the ‘power kill’ mindset of pressuring and attacking the play to create offensive chances while down a man. His anticipation and timing when jumping routes are his strengths defensively and if he can commit to doing it more consistently at five-on-five, the defensive woes become a nonfactor on the wing.
The draw that Martino has is his ability to change the score in a second. There are few players in the draft that play with the tempo that the Omaha Lancers’ forward plays with. Many players have quick hands, others have incredibly fast feet. Martino blends the two while having the dual-threat ability that could wind up making him one of the top-10 scorers from this draft class. His path will take him to the NCAA next season with Clarkson which should allow him to round out his game but the offensive potential is insane. If he’s sitting there after round one, whatever team calls his name should be over the moon.
Check out Martino’s Game Tape with Tony video where we discuss his game and go over some of his film together!
Isak Rosén | W | Leksand (J20 Nationell) | 5-11 | 156lbs
Rosén is such a fun player to watch when he is able to play his game and unfortunately, he spent the majority of the year in the SHL where he had to play down in the lineup and wasn’t able to take advantage of the things he does well because of limited playing time and linemates that are generally less focused on creating offense. He also has a bit of a slender frame and looks a bit overpowered at times when strength is a factor in the play. His ability to get to the middle of the ice at the U20 level was quite good but at the SHL level, he was clearly a bit overmatched. At the end of the day, he may not have been ready for the step to professional men’s hockey in Sweden but with the circumstances surrounding this season, it was one of the only options.
So if he wasn’t ready for pro hockey as of yet and looked overwhelmed at times, why would a team target him? Projection and talent. He shows a willingness to engage on the forecheck and his effort is seldom in question. With impressive hands and the soft touch of a lethal playmaker, Rosén is dangerous with the puck on his stick and skilled teammates to utilize. He has a good shot that is lethal because of his quick release and precise placement. He won’t be a scorer from distance but few players have that ability on a consistent basis. Due to the fact that this is a player who may take an extra year of development and will need to fill out physically, teams may opt to go the ‘safe’ route and take a player who may be a bit closer or more refined. Passing on Rosén’s upside could be a mistake in a few years.
Logan Stankoven | C/W | Kamloops (WHL) | 5-8 | 170lbs
I think we all know why Stankoven falls – if he falls. It’s that pesky 5’8″ height of his and quite frankly, nothing else. Teams have made the mistakes before by allowing smaller players fall to day two with Brayden Point, Alex DeBrincat, and Nick Robertson more recently. The NHL game is becoming more and more skill-based which has allowed players that were previously deemed undersized to excel and play key roles on their teams. There will be hesitation but there shouldn’t be. Stankoven has a stalky frame and has good strength which allows him to battle and win along the boards where most of the concerns about drafting small players come from.
At the end of the day, the thing with Stankoven is that he is really damn good at hockey. He does so many things that push play positively with and without the puck. He reads skating lanes extremely well and cuts through traffic off the puck as well as anyone in this draft class. His shot is among the most threatening in the draft class which allows him to sell himself as a shooter before dishing the biscuit to his linemate for a back door tap in. The Kamloops forward can play in the middle or on the wing but at the next level, a team will likely try to force him to the wing because of his size. Stankoven should be a player that goes in the 15-25 range based on his talent but the disservice that teams do to themselves when taking too much stock in a players size may cause him to fall.
Francesco Pinelli | C | Kitchener (OHL)/HDD Jesenice (AlpsHL) | 6-0 | 184lbs
Pinelli is a straight-up wild card. Elite Prospects has him rated in the top-10 based on the highly intelligent Rachel Doerrie‘s evaluations. DraftPro Hockey has him rated just outside the first round. I personally land somewhere in the middle with him rated in the 20’s but the lack of exposure with no OHL season to this point and just 13 games in the AlpsHL in Slovenia, there is a real chance that the talented center falls. His foot speed has also been brought up as a concern but my evaluations have a bit of a different view of that. When Pinelli is moving his feet and getting engaged in the play, the footspeed issue doesn’t seem to be an issue. His pace is where I have small concerns. He could develop a bit more of an aggressive mindset when it comes to pushing the tempo and moving his feet a bit more consistently will go a long way towards that.
Pinelli plays a highly intelligent game. Diagnosing the defensive structure and attacking its weaknesses as if he were deconstructing their system. His passing is crisp and accurate, finding the lanes consistently. He is a good but not great skater as mentioned but the understanding of where and when to be in his spots mitigates much of that. As a shooter, the Kitchener Rangers’ forward is able to rip it when given the room. He needs to work on creating a bit of room for himself at times but the release is legit. Of all the players in this grouping, Pinelli could have the widest range of draft outcomes.
Carson Lambos | LD | Winnipeg (WHL)/ JYP Jyväskylä U20 (U20 SM-sarja)| 6-0 | 200lbs
This is a tough one. Carson Lambos just hasn’t gotten a break to go his way this season. After starting the year around the top-10 of the draft rankings consistently, Lambos has seen his stock fall for a few reasons. The first of which was that when he went over to Finland to play some games prior to the WHL starting back up, the adjustment to playing on a bigger ice surface really seemed to affect his game because of the style he plays. He likes to close, lead with his stick and poke the puck free, and turn the play up ice. With the extra room on the larger ice surface, his timing was thrown off. With the WHL returning, Lambos was set to return home and kick his season into gear with Winnipeg. After just two games, he was sidelined so that he could undergo a medical procedure. To say things haven’t gone to plan would be an understatement.
If all of that causes him to fall to the second round, Lambos could be a nice pickup for a team that is looking to add a strong defender who plays a solid two-way game and excels in transition. He has some interesting offensive traits with a solid shot from the blueline. He is able to walk the blueline and get himself into a better position to find a teammate or thread a shot through as well. His defensive game is at it’s best when he is able to close quickly in transition, break up the play and recover the loose puck. He is skilled with his stick and aggressive at closing the gap and eliminating space. He can get burned at times but has the skating and IQ to get back to where he needs to be. His ability to breakout with either his passing or his feet is a nice asset, allowing him to stay involved in the rush. There is some refinement that he needs but the potential of a top-four minutes eater who can do a bit of everything is alluring.
Brent Johnson | D | Sioux Falls (USHL) | 5-11 | 165lbs
As much as Brent Johnson has emerged this year, there are still very few people talking about him. It certainly doesn’t help that the Sioux Falls Stampede are one of the lesser covered teams in the USHL. A recent injury just prior to the Biosteel All-American game prevented him from putting his name on people’s minds at a marquee event. There is also the fact that he is a sub-6′ rearguard who leans offensively which on the surface, must mean he’s bad defensively. Not the case. All in all, the biggest problem with Johnson is that he doesn’t get the public love in the USHL that Chicago and the U.S. NTDP get as the premier programs of the league.
A ‘jack-of-all trades’ type of defender who may not have one truly elite tool, Johnson is a smart defender who attacks the play at both ends of the ice. Defensively, he cuts off attackers skating paths with his mobility and disrupts the puck carrier’s momentum. He breaks the possession and gets his feet moving in the other direction. His defensive game is built upon his ability to anticipate the play. In transition, the Dallas-native pushes the pace and gets his feet moving. He reads the neutral zone formation and finds a passing option. He is a true two-way defender. With his passing and mobility playing in the offensive zone is free-flowing and calculated. He seems to know where to go with the puck and although he can get himself into trouble at times, his creativity and offensive prowess make him very intriguing.
The 2021 NHL Draft is going to be an interesting one and the fact of the matter is, some teams will do better than others and it will come down to who adapted to the global climate. The OHL not playing is unfortunate and my heart goes out to every player that is losing a year of hockey. It will be interesting to see what teams do with the OHL crop as I’m sure there will be a few later-round surprises coming from the Ontario league. I hope you enjoyed taking a look at some players who may fall to the second round. Even if a few of them go in round one, there will be value to be had on day two of the annual proceedings. For more on the NHL draft, follow me on Twitter @theTonyFerrari!